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How Do Steroids Reduce Inflammation? (From A Doctor)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 24, 2022

Steroids are very strictly and carefully controlled drugs that significantly impact how the human body reacts to diseases, injuries, and allergens.

And while many athletes resort to taking steroids for muscle gains and performance improvements, some also try to speed up injury recovery times when significant inflammation and swelling are involved.

The problem is that not all steroids impact inflammation, and you need a doctor to carefully calculate the proper dosage and cycle time to achieve the right results.

So, to help people understand what risks they are taking with self-administered steroids, I did some research with a medical doctor.

Here’s what I found.

Quick Summary

  • Some anabolic steroids can impact inflammation, but they come with severe side effects and risks.
  • Many people misunderstand the different effects of steroids and end up self-prescribing dangerous drugs that don’t bring the intended results.
  • It’s essential to let a doctor determine the best types of steroids for medical conditions and injuries.

Do Steroids Help With Inflammation?

Holding a syringe while flexing biceps

Yes, some steroids help with inflammation in the body.

They are commonly used to treat joint inflammation and other parts of the body [1].

This predominantly happens by reducing the immune system activity, which is the natural trigger behind inflammation and swelling. More on that shortly.

While joint inflammation is one of the most common reasons for prescribing steroids, it can also help with asthma and skin irritations like eczema.

It’s also important to understand that a doctor might prescribe anabolic drugs or corticosteroids for a highly targeted effect on the body depending on the medical condition.

How Do Steroids Suppress Inflammation?

Steroids suppress inflamation by inhibiting certain parts of the immune system from producing and releasing proteins that trigger inflammatory response [2].

Corticosteroids are a very common medication for inflammation because they can be administered in several different ways.

There are injectable forms, and they also come in tablet form. And for skin and some joint issues, it’s also possible to apply a topical cream as part of medical treatment.

In normal conditions, inflammation and swelling can be appropriate responses to protect damaged tissue.

But with medical conditions like asthma, eczema, and arthritis, that inflammation is not a good response and requires intervention to avoid long-term damage and pain.

Different Effects Of Corticosteroids And Anabolics

Man having a stomach ache

One of the big problems for people who decide to self-administer steroids is that they don’t have the medical training to choose the right one and then monitor the side effects correctly.

That’s why steroids are a controlled substance and illegal without a prescription from a doctor.

Here is how these common medical drugs interact with your body.

Corticosteroids

These are synthetic forms of a steroid called cortisol. It’s normal to have fluctuations, but there can be problems with stress levels and immune responses in extreme cases.

Because of its impact on the immune system and how it releases proteins to trigger inflammation, corticosteroids have become a great tool in naturally reducing the trigger for inflammation [3].

“Cortisol keeps your immune system from making substances that cause inflammation. Corticosteroid drugs, like prednisone, work in a similar way.” - Tyler Wheeler, MD, WebMD.com

Anabolic Steroids

Injecting a syringe on muscle

Anabolic steroids are typically synthetic substances that closely resemble the male sex hormone testosterone.

It’s typically prescribed for low testosterone levels and to deal with the impact of diseases or surgery to help the body strengthen again [4].

It’s these drugs that many athletes also decide to use in order to build up more muscle and strength than they are naturally able to.

But it’s important to understand that these anabolic drugs have much less of an impact on inflammation and, in many cases, have no impact at all.

FAQs

How Quickly Do Steroids Reduce Inflammation?

Many steroids reduce inflammation within four days. This mostly depends on the type and whether it’s injected, swallowed, or applied as a cream.

Do Anabolic Steroids Help Joint Pain?

No, anabolic steroids don’t tend to help joint pain. It’s mainly corticosteroids that are used for joint inflammation like arthritis. Anabolic steroids are typically used to improve muscle mass and strength.

Taking The Right Approach To Medical Steroids

Unfortunately, way too many bodybuilders and athletes take different forms of steroids for muscle growth and to treat overstrained joints.

The problem is that there are specific steroids that help with inflammation, and doctors have to carefully monitor their use to ensure patients don’t end up with serious side effects.

What I recommend to clients and readers is that they should instead take legal steroids. These are natural supplements with herbs and amino acids that trigger a natural response in your body.

It’s not a replacement for medical treatment if you need it, but it can significantly impact your body in terms of strength and muscle mass.


References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/steroids-to-treat-arthritis
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1751559/
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/4812-corticosteroids
  4. https://www.webmd.com/men/anabolic-steroids

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